The idea of moving forward with legal proceedings can be daunting for some people. Hesitating can be risky, though, and it can cause you to run into issues related to the Massachusetts statute of limitations.
Statutes of limitations are often technical and require evaluation and analysis by an experienced attorney. You get one opportunity to seek justice. It is always a good idea to consult with a legal professional who can advise you appropriately. Breakstone, White & Gluck has faithfully assisted Boston injury clients in understanding the intricacies of SOLs for more than three decades.
In this article, we’ll highlight the different statutes of limitations that apply in the state of Massachusetts. Hopefully, the details included below will prove helpful to your case.
Massachusetts Statutes of Limitations at a Glance
We cover the different SOLs in more depth below, but this chart will give you a quick review of the statutes most applicable to the cases we handle. Note: there are exceptions to every rule, and you may have more or less time to file your claim than this chart indicates. The best thing you can do is contact a Boston injury lawyer as soon as possible to get started on your case.
|Type of Claim||Statute of Limitations|
|Personal Injury (Torts)||Three Years|
|Wrongful Death||Three Years|
|Product Liability||Three Years|
|Medical Malpractice||Three Years|
|Massachusetts Tort Claim Act||Two Years|
What Are Statutes of Limitations?
Before we dive into specific statutes of limitations, let’s first talk about what they are.
Statutes of limitations are laws put in place to serve as time limits. They indicate how much time the parties involved in a specific case need to take legal action. If the statute of limitations expires in their case, then that will be the end of it.
The statutes focus on setting the maximum amount of time that people have to act.
Most of the time, the statutes of limitations refer to criminal offenses and personal injury cases. They may also be referred to in matters involving debt, however.
What’s interesting about statutes of limitations is that they can vary depending on certain factors.
The nature of the offense will affect how long the statute of limitations will be. The location matters too, and that’s why you must know about Massachusetts statutes of limitations.
Statutes of Limitations for Injury Cases
Let’s talk about specific offenses and their accompanying statutes of limitations. We’ll go over a few examples below.
Whether you were in a head-on collision or another driver rear-ended you, a vehicular accident is a serious matter. Drivers can sustain serious injuries from that kind of incident. They must know what to do to receive fair compensation.
The statute of limitations for car accidents in Massachusetts is three years from the date the incident occurred. That comes as no surprise.
What may be a bit surprising, though, is how the filing process should go.
Massachusetts is a no-fault state when it comes to car insurance. That means you must file a claim with your insurance provider for personal injury protection coverage. Regardless of which party caused the crash, you must file with your insurance provider first.
Do note, though, that you can pursue legal action against the at-fault party under certain conditions. Those conditions include incurring serious injuries such as loss of hearing or broken bones and incurring medical expenses that exceed $2000. The same statute of limitations still applies, but you can sue the other driver if they meet those conditions.
Also, note that the principle of comparative liability applies in vehicular accidents. Comparative liability can reduce or even outright eliminate the amount of compensation you may receive in a personal injury case.
If the defendant can prove that you share some of the blame for the accident, it will reduce your compensation by a percentage equal to the amount of blame attributed to you during the accident.
In a situation where the accident is more than 50 percent your fault, you will receive no compensation.
We want to focus specifically on hit and run accidents here so you can see the differences clearly. The statute of limitations for hit and run accidents can change significantly depending on how things unfold.
The first thing to note here is that the overarching statute of limitations for hit and run accidents is three years. You cannot file any charges after that amount of time has passed, no matter what revelations you find.
Do note, though, that the time limit may be shorter than that.
If the victim is already aware of the assailant’s identity, they will only have six months to act. The plaintiff not filing charges within those six months means that they cannot initiate other legal proceedings even if three years have not passed.
Massachusetts residents should also know that the terms for time limits described here apply for bodily injuries and property damage.
A case of wrongful death can be brought about by different causes. It could be the unfortunate result of an auto accident, a product of medical malpractice, or a form of gross negligence. Wrestling with the tragic passing of a loved one is difficult. It is important to note that people have recourse to pursue compensation in wrongful death cases.
Massachusetts law gives them three years from the date of the person death to file a lawsuit against the offending party.
Defective products can be dangerous.
Appliances that heat up too quickly may be the cause of a fire or injury inside a home. Some electronics are also notorious for overheating and even exploding.
It’s even more worrying when the problematic product in question is a toy. Poorly designed or defective toys can cause serious injuries to children.
For product liability cases, the statute of limitations is three years. Once again, the clock will not start until you discover the injury related to the problematic product.
Unlike medical malpractice cases, there is no statute of repose. It would be best to talk to your lawyer to know how to proceed if you’re affected by a defective product.
Dogs are famous for being loyal, obedient, and fun-loving companions. However, some dogs develop a more violent personality that may have been instilled in them by their upbringing.
Sadly, some owners cannot control their vicious dogs. Even unprovoked, some dogs may attack and injure innocent bystanders.
In a dog bite case, a plaintiff will have three years to file a lawsuit. That will hopefully give the victims enough time to recover before they focus on the case.
One more thing to note here is that dog owners in Massachusetts must take full responsibility for the actions of their pets.
Since Massachusetts is a strict liability state, the owner will be responsible regardless of whether they were aware of the animal’s violent tendencies.
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall incidents can be somewhat difficult to parse through. The authorities expect all parties involved to share responsibility for preventing them.
The property owner must maintain their property, so it does not present a danger to anyone. Meanwhile, you must also prove that you were taking the proper precautions to not slip on the surface.
You have three years from the date the incident occurred to file your personal injury lawsuit. Also, note that this is another case where comparative negligence comes into play.
The crime of medical malpractice is one of the trickier ones to handle. That’s because there are different time limits people need to know about.
When the affected party finds out about an injury they sustained due to a medical professional’s negligence, they have three years to act.
Furthermore, the clock doesn’t start until the plaintiff discovers their injury. That means they can still pursue charges even if they only felt the effects of their injury four years after the incident.
However, there is another statute of note in medical malpractice cases. It is known as the statute of repose.
Although plaintiffs can file cases for incidents that took place years ago, they still cannot afford to wait too long. The statute of repose dictates that seven years from the date of the incident is the final deadline to file any lawsuits. A late discovery will not lead to an extension of the deadline.
To put it simply, you cannot take any legal action past that seven-year mark.
There are also special laws in place on children.
If the malpractice took place during birth, you must file the lawsuit by the child’s seventh birthday. Furthermore, a medical malpractice incident that occurred after birth but before the child’s sixth birthday also has special time limits. Parents specifically must file the malpractice lawsuit before their child’s ninth birthday.
Workplace injuries can be damaging injuries in different ways. Apart from the pain and discomfort of the injuries themselves, you also deal with the side effects. You could lose your job or become unable to pursue your hobbies due to injuries you sustained while working.
Worker’s compensation seeks to ease the burden that those injuries have caused.
Upon learning that your job or workplace caused your injuries, you’ll have four years to file a lawsuit. Sadly, some workplace injuries can lead to a person’s death. The relatives of the deceased also receive four years from the date of their loved one’s death to push forward with legal proceedings.
Other Statutes That Could Play a Role in Your Injury Claim
Sometimes, folks who file civil suits do so concurrently with law enforcement filing criminal charges. In many cases in Massachusetts, the statutes for the criminal charges are different than for a civil claim. Below we list some timelines which may apply based on the type of civil claim or injury lawsuit you filed.
Assault and Battery
A victim in an assault and battery case may not push forward with charges right away. If they were injured badly, they may need to remain in recovery for a significant amount of time.
The law provides victims with ample time to recover. A case involving assault and battery has a statute of limitations set at three years.
Fraud can come in many forms, and the corresponding penalties for them may vary as well. A plaintiff who discovers they were the victim of fraud will have up to three years to file charges and hopefully recoup any financial losses.
Crimes with No Statutes of Limitations
Not all criminal offenses have time limits. Given the severity of the offense, the law recognizes they must serve justice no matter how much time has passed.
For this section, we’ll focus first on the crimes that have no statutes of limitations.
Massachusetts does not place any time limit for charges against potential murder suspects. This makes it possible to pursue criminal charges in previously cold cases by advancements in forensic technology.
Crimes Involving Minors
They remove the statute of limitations in many cases where minors were the victims of violent crimes.
No matter how much time has passed, you can charge someone who you believe raped or sexually abused a child under the age of sixteen. Assaulting a child with the intent of committing rape is another crime that is not subject to any time limitations.
Engaging in sex trafficking involving children is another crime that they would prosecute no matter how much time has passed.
It is important to note here that there is a caveat related to these crimes.
If more than twenty-seven years have passed since the alleged offense, the prosecutor must have evidence before the case can proceed. They will specifically need testimony from the victim along with other corroborating evidence.
Crimes Involving a Person with an Intellectual Disability
Some crimes committed against individuals with an intellectual disability also carry no time limits. More specifically, officials will prosecute anyone accused of assaulting a person with an intellectual disability.
Statutes of Limitations for Other Crimes
There are numerous other crimes that we could not address here. In Massachusetts, the statute of limitations is usually six years for most types of felonies and misdemeanors.
Do not hesitate to pursue charges against anyone who has committed a criminal offense against you. Waiting too long can prove costly to you in more ways than one.
Once you’ve decided to go after the person who has wronged you, do not hesitate to approach us at Breakstone, White & Gluck for assistance. We will work with you to quickly set the legal proceedings in motion and ensure that you receive justice.